Lantau's new status as a focus of government development plans will make 85 subsidised public flats in Tai O attractive to buyers when they go on sale in June, an academic says.
But the Home Ownership Scheme flats might draw speculators instead of genuine, needy buyers, warned Chau Kwong-wing, chair professor in the University of Hong Kong's real estate and construction department. The remote location and lack of job opportunities nearby would significantly increase commuting times and costs for people already struggling to afford homes.
"It would be a good choice for people who want a flat for a weekend getaway or for investment," Chau said yesterday. "But those who have to commute to Kowloon or Hong Kong Island for work would choose subdivided flats in urban areas."
He pointed to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, due to be finished in 2016, the extension of Tung Chung town and the proposed new town on an artificial island east of Lantau as factors improving the prospects of selling the 19-year-old flats.
In February last year, the Housing Authority proposed converting one 12-storey public rental block on Lung Tin estate, built in 1995, to HOS flats as more than 80 per cent of the homes were vacant. Selling them would also save on maintenance costs.
The authority is due to discuss on Monday how to sell the flats, which have an average size of about 480 sq ft. Tentative prices range from HK$640,000 to about HK$900,000, some 70 per cent of the market rate.
HOS is intended to offer affordable housing to buyers who cannot afford private property but are too well off to qualify for public flats.
For the Tai O project, sales are limited to those with monthly incomes of no more than HK$22,000 for a single buyer and HK$40,000 for a household.
"Once an owner pays the land premium, he can freely sell his HOS flat on the market," Chau said. "But it could result in a mismatch as the scheme was set up to serve those in need of a flat for living."